Prostate cancer is a tumor of the prostate and is the second-most common cancer found in men in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, making it important for men and their loved ones to monitor their health, especially as they get older. The average age of men when they are first diagnosed is 66.
Though there are rarer forms of cancer in the prostate, the most likely form, if a person is diagnosed, is adenocarcinoma. Identification of this cancer early is key to overcoming it, which means that medical care providers have a duty to ensure that they take the proper measures to make an accurate diagnosis, then develop a plan to address it.
A delayed diagnosis is a type of medical malpractice where a doctor fails to promptly diagnose or detect an illness. For prostate cancer, it is especially significant for younger men, who are more likely to have their lifespan shortened if the cancer is not caught early, according to the American Cancer Society.
You may be entitled to compensation for the impact that a delayed diagnosis of prostate cancer has had on your life.
Most prostate cancers are identified through screening, though the early-stage forms typically have no symptoms. On the other hand, more advanced prostate cancers may have certain symptoms, such as:
- Problems urinating or the need to urinate more often, especially at night
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Trouble getting an erection
- Pain in the hips, back (spine), chest (ribs), or other areas from cancer that has spread to bones
- Weakness or numbness in the legs or feet, or even loss of bladder or bowel control from cancer pressing on the spinal cord
There are a number of treatment options for prostate cancer, depending on the age of the patient and the stage of the cancer. While low-risk groups will be put under surveillance, radiation therapy along with hormone therapy would be more appropriate for those in higher-risk groups.
Diagnosing Prostate Cancer
Screening for cancer helps to identify it before it ever shows symptoms. One way the cancer can be identified is through prostate-specific antigen testing (PSA), which tests for elevated levels of the antigen in the blood. Another way is by taking a digital rectal exam (DRE). If anything in these tests is abnormal, a patient could be referred for a prostate biopsy. In a prostate biopsy, a urologist will collect tissue samples from the prostate gland and examine it for cell abnormalities to identify the presence of cancer.
Failing to Diagnose Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer can be an especially complicated illness to screen for. Tests are not 100% accurate and can show abnormal results where a person does not have cancer, and normal results where a person has cancer. There are forms of prostate cancer that are a slow spreading disease, meaning that in some cases, it is not necessary to treat it because it would not cause a problem in a man’s lifetime. However, other forms are very aggressive, and it is the physician’s job to figure out how aggressive the cancer is.
Furthermore, screening tests are not mandatory. Instead, they are left to the discretion of the patient. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued guidance stating that men between 55-69 should make their own choice regarding choosing to undergo screening, after consulting with their doctor. Men over 70 are advised not to screen at all. The reason for not requiring screening is out of concern for false-positives and the implications that they may have, including unnecessary biopsies, overtreatment of a cancer that would otherwise not impact one’s lifespan, and possible health implications, such as bleeding and erectile dysfunction.
However, despite the complications with screening and making an accurate diagnosis, there are still things that medical care providers should do to ensure proper care is taken. Some contributing factors to delayed diagnosis, which may hold doctors liable for negligence may include the following:
- Failure to educate patients on things like self-exams and early screening
- Failure to refer patients for appropriate diagnostic investigations, blood tests, and biopsies
- Failure to detect abnormalities
- Failure to perform diagnostic investigation when abnormalities are detected
Compensation for a Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis
In cases where someone has been misdiagnosed or is impacted by a delayed diagnosis of prostate cancer, both the patient and members of the patient’s family have a potential lawsuit. They may be compensated for:
- Medical expenses, past and future
- Lost past wages (have to establish that malpractice caused inability to work)
- Loss of earning capacity or future wages
- Miscellaneous economic losses, such as home care, transportation, or meals
- Spouse can recover for loss of financial support
- Physical pain and emotional suffering
- Spouse can recover for injury to the marriage (loss of consortium)
- Family members, in the event of person’s death, may be entitled to money via wrongful death action
- Punitive damages can be awarded in the case of reckless disregard of proper standards of care (rarely awarded)
Possible Outcomes of a Medical Malpractice Case
An important thing to know is that there can be several different outcomes to a medical malpractice lawsuit:
- The most common outcome is an out-of-court settlement. This is where both sides have agreed to resolve the case and end the lawsuit in exchange for the person suing being paid a negotiated amount of money. It is the most common resolution because it avoids the expenses and uncertainty associated with going to trial.
- If the case does proceed to trial, then the jury will decide either for the injured person, or the doctor and/or medical care facility that is being sued. In the event that it rules in favor of the injured party, the jury will also decide the amount of money that should be awarded for the injury. They will consider the severity of the injury as well as the level of malpractice committed. On the other hand, the jury can also rule in favor of the party being sued, in which case the lawsuit will be dismissed, typically with no money being awarded.
A Case to Illustrate
The following case shows how the level of negligence by the physicians and the extent of the harm, in this instance irreparable harm caused, impacts the amount of money that the jury decides to award to the injured person. It also highlights the importance of choosing experienced attorneys who will conduct a thorough investigation and gather all of the necessary evidence and information to put you in the best position to be awarded the highest possible amount of compensation.
- Both a primary care doctor and a urologist saw abnormal results but declined to order follow up biopsy testing for the patient and assured him that he did not have cancer. By the time the next physical evaluation was conducted two years later, the cancer had spread throughout the body and was inoperable.
- As a result of the delayed diagnosis, the person was unable to return to work and would be on pain medications for the rest of his life.
- Injured person claimed $141,000 in past medical costs, $370,000 in future medical costs, $30,000 in past lost earnings, and $330,000 in future lost earnings.
- The plaintiff’s wife sued for loss of consortium, claiming $250,000 for past pain and suffering, $250,000 in future pain and suffering, and $250,000 for a future wrongful death claim.
Why You Need an Attorney
If you suspect that your doctor missed a prostate cancer diagnosis and are considering filing a medical malpractice suit, it’s important to seek legal assistance from a lawyer who specializes in this type of litigation. The sooner you do so, the more time they will have to assess your case to determine whether or not you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages or other forms of suffering due to the delayed diagnosis of prostate cancer.
At Rosenblum Law, we’ve been handling medical malpractice claims for decades. We work with medical experts to help support our clients’ claims, and are experienced negotiators when it comes to going up against insurance companies. Our firm is here to help you make sense of your options and protect your rights as a patient. Contact us today for an initial consultation.
Yes, it is possible to be misdiagnosed with prostate cancer, when in fact, you have another condition. For example, granulomatous prostatitis is often mistaken for prostate cancer. This is because in one of the most prevalent tests, multiparametric MR imaging, there is an overlap in characteristics between prostate cancer and prostatitis. This makes test interpretation susceptible to making a misdiagnosis.
One of the main problems with prostate biopsies is that they have a high rate of false negatives. In about 30-40% of tests, prostate biopsies show no signs of cancer even though a person may have abnormal levels of the prostate specific antigen (PSA). This requires men to undergo prostate biopsies several times. Therefore, it is certainly possible that prostate biopsies can be wrong.
BPH is benign prostatic hyperplasia. It is a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland and happens due to age and genetic related factors. Because BPH has similar symptoms to prostate cancer, it is possible for prostate cancer to be misdiagnosed as BPH. Both involve problems urinating, and affect the prostate gland. However, BPH is noncancerous. A doctor is responsible for conducting the necessary follow-up tests, such as PSA testing, to get more information on which of the two you may have.
When prostate cancer is advanced, it has spread to other parts of the body, outside of the local area. This could mean that it has spread to the lymph nodes, bones, liver, or lungs. It is possible that some men will experience minimal symptoms, while others may have trouble urinating, see blood in their urine, feel tired, experience bone pain, and lose weight, to name a few. However, it depends on the size of the cancer and where it has spread. Chances are that you will be experiencing some symptoms and may not associate them with prostate cancer. That is why it’s important to see a doctor and get screened as soon as possible.